Sunday, April 6, 2008

Quantum Uncertainty

In a recent comment thread, I asserted that the law of non-contradiction—and the laws of logic generally—are aspects of this universe that are discovered by man (as opposed to being invented by man). One respondent made the claim that law of non-contradiction has been disproved and, as a corollary, that it can thus be seen to be merely a flawed law made by fallible men. The basis of my respondent’s claim was quantum mechanics. Because this (relatively new) sub-discipline of physics is so poorly understood by the man on the street, and (more importantly) because it is so commonly abused to make claims like this one, I thought it would be worth a bit of discussion here.

First, however, it is worth noting that (even if he were correct in thinking that quantum uncertainty refutes the laws of logic) my respondent is still utilizing the laws of logic throughout his post; he is acting as though these laws do exist and do apply in the universe in which this thread is taking place. And this is just one of the most obvious problems with postmodern epistemological claims—the postmodernist cannot live consistently as though what he is claiming (about truth and knowledge) is really true. That he finds argumentation and discussion worth engaging in is evidence that he really believes in truth and logic, whatever he might say. But back to QM…

Quantum mechanics is the field of physics that seeks to understand the behavior of subatomic particles. Central to this very specific field and scale is the Heisenberg Uncertainty Principle. [Apparently, it is “certainty” (on the part of anyone making a truth claim) that is the greatest anathema or offense to those steeped in postmodernism. Thus, when a scientific principle includes in its name the word “uncertainty,” that principle seems readymade for use in denying our potential for certainty. Postmodernists are not the only ones to misapply this principle. Naturalists use it to avoid the obvious conclusions to which the cosmological and astrophysical evidence points—that there is a transcendent Creator behind the beginning of the universe.]

But QM generally and Heisenberg uncertainty in particular apply only to the micro scale of subatomic particles. According to Wikipedia…
In quantum physics, the Heisenberg uncertainty principle is the statement that locating a particle in a small region of space makes the momentum of the particle uncertain; and conversely, that measuring the momentum of a particle precisely makes the position uncertain.

In quantum mechanics, the position and momentum of particles do not have precise values, but have a probability distribution. There are no states in which a particle has both a definite position and a definite momentum. The narrower the probability distribution is in position, the wider it is in momentum.
Quantum physics does not refute or replace general relativity. Rather, it represents a refinement—a recognition that there is this one scale at which the physics with which we are familiar (those at the macro level) do not apply.* At the scale at which we live (and argue and discuss), quantum physics and Heisenberg uncertainty do not come into play. All quantum mechanics shows us is that at the very specific level of particle physics, man is limited in his ability to measure specific aspects of quantum effects.

But this is not the only problem with my respondent’s claim. Even if it didn’t suffer from this problem of scale, the claim involves a nonsequitur. There would seem to be a huge number of unsupplied premises between the starting point “quantum mechanics indicates a level of uncertainty previously overlooked” and the conclusion “the law of non-contradiction is broken.” (And again, the law of non-contradiction is assumed whenever one attempts—even fallaciously—an argument such as this.) If there were in QM some basis for questioning the laws of logic (which there is not), it would still require a rigorous argument to demonstrate that. I trust that the readers of this blog are critical enough not to be impressed by vague appeals that are meant to replace reasoned arguments.

The law of non-contradiction remains an important aspect of the universe in which we live, and quantum mechanics has in the end nothing to say about that.


*Similarly, general relativity neither refuted nor replaced Newtonian physics. Rather, it represented a refinement, a recognition of a scale and set of circumstances at which Newtonian physics are not comprehensive and adequate. To say that quantum mechanics refutes the law of non-contradiction is a bit like saying that we need not bother worrying about gravity now that general relativity has been verified.

25 comments:

Darren King said...

Rick, I will address more of your post later, but let me address something from the outset, postmodernism is not a one-size-fits-all kind of enterprise. I grow tired of people trying to describe it as such.

This really is an outdated understanding. Modern thinkers constantly set up a straw man such as this, and then revel in the fact that they can so easily knock it down.

There is a vast difference between saying there is no truth (original and most literal understanding of postmodernism), versus saying we should be cautious in our ability to aprehend it fully, because of our own finite nature (nuanced postmodernism).

Please don't turn a complicated, many faceted perspective into a black or white issue.

Darren King said...

Rick,

Respectfully, you really do try and beat a dead horse.

Friend, it is far too convenient for you to say that all I was demonstrating was that certain laws don't apply on a subatomic scale. The point was that, what was once a well-agreed-upon understanding of the universe (at EVERY level) later came into question. The absolute was deconstructed.

The point: humility (not the least of which should include hermeneutical humility) should result when out tried and true formulations run into these kinds of hiccups.

At first you might create exceptions to the rule, to continue to hold your metanarrative paradigm, but eventually, one experiences enough cognitive dissonance as to call into question the entire paradigm.

Don't be so sure in your assumptions! Give it a year, or two, or one hundred, they will be undone. Our understanding of the nature of reality is not merely being fine-tuned, it is being reformulated. If you don't realize this then, again, you're only dealing with 1950's science.

And like I mentioned in the first comment to your post, please don't paint all postmodernly-informed thinkers as believers in total subjectivity and relativism. We are a much more nuanced group than that. Obviously, I am aware that I could not claim to follow Jesus- who is supremely important in the Cosmos- and claim to simultaneously subscribe to a competely relativistic understanding of truth and reality.

If only all philosophers were such fragile strawmen. It would make truth-talk so simple. But alas, this is not reality (with a capital R) my friend.

-Peace on the journey,
Darren

Darren King said...

Here's some more info for you to consider, Rick. Its getting tricky isn't it?

"The probabilistic nature of quantum physics introduces some worrying implications for the nature of reality. In particular, the Copenhagen Interpretation (one leading view on what the quantum calculations translate into in the macroscopic world) posits that an observer is needed to collapse the wave functions, creating what we see as real. Taken literally, this means that nothing exists if we aren’t watching. The falling tree in a deserted forest really does make no sound, solving the Chinese proverb succinctly. Erwin Schrodinger, one of the pioneers of quantum theory and the man behind wave equations, disagreed with this interpretation most vehemently. Schrondinger’s cat was the fruits of his protest; a thought experiment introducing the paradox that this interpretation brings."

Dan McCarthy said...

Hi Darren,

Sorry Darren, butall postmodernism is by definition "nuanced" and it always has been nuanced. Postmodernism states that truth is defined by its interpretive community and only relates to that interpretive community (Stephen Phfol, PhD). I am sure you can nuance it if you do not feel that this is what postmodernism states because you can be your own interpretive community! I am also not sure why you accused Rick of being a modernist? Do you know what a modernist is (though I guess the definition can be nuanced to fit your interpretive community so you can set up a strawman to attack).

Also, in your second post, you say that the absolute was deconstructed. How can you know that the absolute was deconstructed if you are limited to fully apprehend truth because of your limited nature? How do you know that your metanarrative of nuanced postmodernism is not going to be deconstructed and ushered out over the next five ten or hundred years? You make absolute truth claims against Rich's position while maintaining that Rick should show humility as he posts strawmen. Nuanced is one of those words that postmoderists use in a metanarrative absolutist manner so they cannot be pinned down! It is kind of like saying...whatever.

Respectfully
Dan

Darren King said...

"How can you know that the absolute was deconstructed if you are limited to fully apprehend truth because of your limited nature?"

This seems a very convoluted formulation of a question. If one makes a rule - supposedly according to a bar-none, no exceptions allowed, understanding of the universe - and then one finds an example where the rule doesn't work, well then - the rule is suspect. You don't have to know "everything" to see that this argument fails to hold to its own water.

Secondly, are you trying to offer a one-size-fits-all understanding of how postmodern perspectives flavor people's understanding of reality? If so, you might want to do a little more research. Here’s a good start, Brian McLaren’s piece on the Three Postmodernisms: http://www.brianmclaren.net/archives/000071.html

As I said earlier, if you want to say that to be a postmodernist one has to embrace this idea that all truth is absolutely relative (ironic, we all know) then you can go ahead and leave me out of that category. Because that doesn't fit my understanding of reality. But the point is that you can embrace humility in understanding without embracing complete relativity. Many Christians (who are postmodernly informed) opt for this latter option, myself included. Again, I’d suggest reading McLaren’s piece for more clarity.

Peace,
Darren

A sheep said...

It is interesting to watch those in the postmodernist camp extol the virtues of humility, and then subtly assign this virtue to themselves. Hmmm, it makes one wonder if the whole thing really is about humility or the youthful pride many who observe them notice. Then again, those of us who grew up in the 60s & 70s recall with a quaint smile our own certainties, pride and gurus, and we must retort: stay tuned kids, life has a way of smashing the idols of the mind; smashing, smashing and smashing until a point is reached at which we cry out: “...no one can lay any foundation other than the one already laid, which is Jesus Christ.” A very old and non-postmodernist way of thinking indeed, yet full solace for the broken and needy soul that resides in us all. The cure for postmodernism is age, and the full recognition that the answers lie in the past, not in our own new wanderings. When your postmodernist worldview collapses under the weight of life, know that the true Shepherd awaits you. - a sheep

Dan McCarthy said...

Hi Darren,

Thanks for the response, but your post implicitly accuses me of not understanding postmodernism. I still do not understand if you know what post modernism is as you have not stated what your definition of the philosophy is.

I have studied post modernism since the mid eighties in college and was under the tutelage of Stephen Pfhol among many others. I am quite familiar with McLaren's work, so I recommend that you do not make assumptions without the facts. If you have not done so, I recommend that you read Satre, Camus, Theweliet and others so you can develop your background against which McLaren built his absolutist philosophy. You may also want to read a telling book called Subcultures which is a post modern classic.

Also, I never denied that post modernism denies truth. If you re read my post, I said that Truth is developed by the interpretive community, but cannot be contradicted by another interpretive community. The problem is defining who the interpretive community is. You are welcome to build your own nuanced definition of post modernism, but this is the core definition-which I am fairly sure McLaren would agree with. He may state that Jesus is the only way for finite creatures to access truth and our reflections on Jesus will be limited to our interpretive community. This is what I have taken as a summation of his perspective.

Best
Dan

bobpearson said...

Since I am in my 60th year, and am a committed post-modernist, I deny the previous response to Darren that age will mellow the post modernist view. In fact my many years of experience with the variety of truth and perspectives in the world have strongly reinforced this view.

To take on another view from Physics, if the subatomic quantum paradoxes are not enough for you to see reality as comprehended by humans as ever changing, look at the latest physics on dark energy, dark matter and string theory. As the greatest minds try to generate a unified field theory that combines the micro and macroscopic energy activities of reality they sound more and more like mystics. They have multiple dimensional planes, they have multiple universes, they have 80+% of the mass and energy of physical reality as unknown and unmeasureable, they have matter being created and destroyed in the vacuum of space, etc.

IF the physicists are so unsure about physical reality today, what makes us think that we can know all there is to know about God, and discern all TRUTH from 66 books written over a 4000 year period and completed over 1900 years ago written by people who never traveled more than 100 ms after the time of the stories.
Yes I read and study the Bible, yes I believe in following what Jesus and others taught us about how to be Children of God. But this exercise must be undertaken with utmost humility, utmost reliance on Grace, acceptance of being wrong more than you are right, and total love and acceptance of each other persons efforts to do the same.

I applaud your work. I often covet your certainty. I also hope you can see that this certainty is perhaps a bit of a trap that keeps you from seeing the more wonderous glory of an infinite God that passeth all understanding.

Rick Gerhardt said...

Darren:

Whoaa, Big Fella! Slow down. You’re trying to steamroll me, overwhelming me with verbiage, tangential thoughts, and irrelevant arguments in an attempt to prevent me from responding and to ensure that the point at issue cannot resurface. It will work, since I have a full life that will prevent me from addressing much of what you have had the time to write. But as a tactic for learning, for getting at truth, steamrolling is quite unsuitable.

More to the point, however, this tactic of yours results in a shutting down of the dialogue that you claim to be promoting. Dialogue means reading thoughtfully the other person’s point and responding to it. Your point (to which my response was directed) was that the uncertainty within quantum physics has applicability to logic, somehow warning us not to believe in the laws of logic because we cannot ascertain both the location and momentum of certain subatomic particles. In response to my probing, you have singularly failed to back up this rather bizarre claim, choosing instead to offer up a barrage of red herrings.

Even more fundamentally, though, your collection of comments provides—to the astute onlooker—a perfect example of my larger claims about the problems of postmodernism (in the talk I gave recently). I said that the fatal problems of this worldview are its self-refuting epistemology and the fact that postmodernists cannot align their actions with their words. In your comments, you have advocated humility, but you have done so in a prideful and arrogant manner. Likewise, you have advocated against being certain of one’s conclusions, but you have done so from a position of your own certainty. You have questioned the laws of logic, all the while depending upon their existence even to begin the undertaking.

Now, you may not have realized how detrimental your approach has been—to dialogue, to learning, and to defending your own postmodernism. So I’m still willing to hear what you have to say, if you’ll return to the issue in question—whether the laws of logic remain a fabric of the universe in which we live. But I should warn you that the way I generally deal with steamrollers (since true steamrollers have no interest in learning, getting at truth, or listening to another’s point of view) is to first warn them and then silence them. If I choose to delete any of your future comments, it will because you have persisted in avoiding the issue at hand and failing to address my responses.

But I’m hoping for better from you and for you.

bobpearson said...

First a correction to my previous post. A couple of lines seem to have been deleted. It reads "written by people who never traveled more than 100 ms after the time of the stories."

It should have read:
Written by people who never travelled more than 100 miles from their place of birth and were written down up to hundreds of years after the time of the stories."

Secondly, logic as a science is a reality, but how it gets applied is more dependent on the assumptions used and the nuances of the limitations of the subjects to which it is applied.

There is no way to apply logic to the argument for objective beauty. If the assumption is that beauty is not objective but subjective then logic cannot be used to argue for its objectivity. This statement is a use of logic that is true. But it allows the non-logical, experiential, emotional, spiritual, subjective and mystical aspects of human reality to be as real as a table but appear illogical to the modern mindset. Trying to fit the discussion of God, truth, beauty, etc. into a logical argumentative discourse appears doomed from the start, because we must first agree on the basic assumptions.

Let's start a discussion on our assumptions about how the world works, not argue logical conclusions to early.

I postulate that the universe is more complex than our minds can understand. Throughout history people have developed models of this world that have evolved and changed throughout all history. Today our basic asumptions of how the world works are as wrong as those who thought that the world was carried along on the back of a great turtle, regardless if it is modern physics or six day creationism. It is all not correct, only a limited model that helps us get along with our lives and that model will keep changing as we humans go about our continued existence.

I believe that the people who wrote the Bible actually believed the six day creation story as the true nature of the universe. Most people, even the majority of Christians and Jews, and as you have stated even you no longer believe this.

Darren King said...

Rick,

Please read what Bob wrote to aid in our conversation. You're still missing the overall points we're making. And you still seem to be treating all aspects of postmodern thought as a monolith- with no possibility for nuance. Seriously, that's not a fair treatment. Hopefully, you've done a little more research and discovered that the potential implications of quantum theory on traditional logic are, if nothing else, challenging.

And sorry if it came across as arrogant, but as I said earlier, its hard not to accuse you of the same when you set up the straw man of radical postmodernism, take it down, and then claim victory over anyone who tends to reside further along the modern/postmodern spectrum than you.

Dan,

Actually it was you who first asked me if I even knew what a modernist was. Read back, you'll see what I'm saying is true.

Lastly, I don't doubt that you do understand what postmodernism refers to. But you do seem to be treating it in its extreme. And your point that postmodernism is about nuance of understanding as contextualized by a community is bang on. But that's more an implication of postmodernism, not a definition of it. Postmodernism is, as I’m quite sure you’re aware, rather slippery. But generally it involves a rejection of the overconfidence assigned to the ideals and assumptions of the modernist era, and more specifically the so-called Enlightenment-experiment.

Of course, that’s just speaking in terms of philosophy. Postmodernism- as a rejection of certain forms of hierarchical structure- also has expression in architecture, art, music, etc.

To both Dan and Rick,

Those of us who come across as “postmodern” really do wish to dialog with you. But when you paint us into a corner that really makes it difficult. Rick, when you make statements that suggest- with one fell swoop, that you’ve undone, or “proved” unwarranted the challenges of quantum theory on traditional logic, well then that just comes across as na├»ve at best, and at worst a backhanded insult. We postmodernists are living, thinking, morphing, complex human beings – just like you.

And to turn the tables around, let me say sorry if you’ve felt the same dehumanizing treatment from us. Here’s to hoping we can find a comfy spot in the middle of the room for a more robust conversation.

Dan McCarthy said...

Darren,

Thanks for your response and I appreciate your tone with your last post. I do not think that I have painted you into a corner with the definition of post modernism, but why don't you give me your definition of post modernism is so I do not build a strawman.

Bob,

Thanks for your post and just because things evolve does not mean that post modernism is true. I believe the creation story has little to do with the debate as what the main issue is recovering what Moses meant. Sure people can be mistaken and people learn. This does not mean PM is true. Those who are objectivists do not believe the world is static. We believe we can discern absolute truth. For instance, in your post, you say that scientists are moving towards a unified theory of physics. If we find a unified theory, it would mean that there is an absolute way the universe operates.

Also, please prove your point that the authors wrote the books hundreds of years after the events in the Bibles. Also, please prove your point that they never travelled more than 100 miles from the place of their birth? Even critical scholars that believe the NT is nothing more than an interpretive community of faith believe that Paul wrote his letters within 30 years of Jesus' death and the gospels were written within 60 to 70 years of his death. Also, Paul certainly travelled more than 100 miles from his home.

Dan

Dan McCarthy said...

Bob,

You also seem to assume that postmodernism states that since our knowledge has changed, we cannot be certain of anything. This is not a postmodern perspective. This is a methodological perspective with absolute consequences. If you are accurate in your post modern assesment, you would state what your community believes is true and my community has the right to believe in a 6 day creation (whether they are solar days, day ages or days at the ice cream shop). The moment that you say that my perspective is false, you have lapsed into a modernist perspective.

In fact, true post modernism states that those who have power and the will to wield that power define reality. Therefore, reality is who defines reality. What human society is all about is fighting for the will to power so we can define society the way we choose to define society. No one is ultimately right because power shifts will occur ultimately leading to a new definition of truth. Unfortunately, this is the ultimate metanarrative, therefore exposing postmodernism as just another abolutist system. Foucault ultimately conceeded this was true.

dan

bobpearson said...

In reply I will take the arguments and questions in parts below

"Bob,

Thanks for your post and just because things evolve does not mean that post modernism is true. "

Why not? Absolutism that evolves, i.e. changes, is no different than post modernism that says there are no absolutes it would appear.

"I believe the creation story has little to do with the debate as what the main issue is recovering what Moses meant. "

When did we start talking about what Moses meant? That would be a great discussion on its own.

"Sure people can be mistaken and people learn. This does not mean PM is true. "

Again why not? Stating this assertion without any background is a bit lose as an argument. If I state that since we can easily prove that people are mistaken and they learn new ways to see the world as you agree to above, then there is no such thing as absolutism, only local absolutes in specific time frames of history.

"Those who are objectivists do not believe the world is static. We believe we can discern absolute truth."

And this is the crux of our different worldview it appears. Post modernists believe that individuals or even groups of people, or even all of humanity are inherently incapable of discerning “Absolute TRUTH”, whatever that may be. All perspectives are so filtered by cultural and cognitive lenses that all perspectives are perturbed. The assertion that objectivists can avoid this is so easily disproven it is hardly worth the effort, but apparently it must be done.

Because you and some others believe that they have determined Absolute Truth, or even that absolute truth can be mostly or even partly discerned, it says that anyone who cannot understand this or disagrees with you must be a flawed human being, misguided, misdirected, intransigent, lacking faith, or some other form of outsider. This creates an US vs. THEM perspective on the world. If those poor people who do not see the truth as we do don’t get with it the world will never be reconciled to God.

But don't you agree that God calls us to love everyone. God is reconciling the whole world to God’s self. Jesus died for everyone. So how do we get the people to understand this graceful God, this unconditionally loving God, this Jesus that came for everyone. It seems that the worst way to do this is to say “We have the truth, you do not and you must become like us or at least believe like us or else”. If you do indeed have the truth in your small minority, of all Christians even, then it makes you so important that it should be obvious to all that this truth has made some difference in your life that makes you stand out. But you are still a sinner just like the rest of us. So this Truth that you claim to have is not making any difference in your life, much less the rest of the world. We have ben at this effort for 200 years and not much has changed. I still see myself and most of the world in the stories of people in the Bible.

But if we hear God and Jesus to say that everyone is our brother, each person is loved unconditionally by God, that all your enemies are to be loved by you, and that what you believe actually does not make any difference, except for this one commandment: Love one another or as I like to say it these days, love everyone, just as God has loved you. This can truly change the world and we need to be getting on with this effort and stop arguing about beliefs and absolutes. I agree to accept one absolute, that is: God is love and God loves every single person who has, does and will ever live just the same without any reservation or limits.
That is about as much absoluteness as I can handle. When I get this right I can move on to more at that time…☺

So I postulate that we postmodernists do believe in some absolutes, but that we are open and that people who believe that they already have all the absolute truth are closed, then the distinction between a post-modernist and a modernist is simply are you open to new ideas and perspectives or are you closed?


"For instance, in your post, you say that scientists are moving towards a unified theory of physics. If we find a unified theory, it would mean that there is an absolute way the universe operates.

"

No. It only means that they will have another temporary model of how the universe works. Stay tuned for Unified Field Theory 2 in about say 25 to 40 years as more ideas, observations, anomalies and black swans get in and muck up the last theory.

"Also, please prove your point that the authors wrote the books hundreds of years after the events in the Bibles. Also, please prove your point that they never traveled more than 100 miles from the place of their birth? Even critical scholars that believe the NT is nothing more than an interpretive community of faith believe that Paul wrote his letters within 30 years of Jesus' death and the gospels were written within 60 to 70 years of his death. Also, Paul certainly traveled more than 100 miles from his home. 

Dan"


All of the books of the Pentateuch were oral for hundreds of years before they were in written form. Slaves and Nomads did not carry around books/scrolls, but they did carry around stories!

The books from Deuteronomy through Chronicles are all well proven to date from after the Exile. They certainly were told as stories, but did not survive as manuscripts in any form until after the return to Jerusalem after the Exile. The perspective of the Priestly class who wrote them down to justify why the Promised lands were lost all point to this. Also, most records if not all are presumed to have been destroyed when Jerusalem was sacked and the temple destroyed before the exile.
Most old testament prophets did not write down their words and actions, others did this long after they were dead. Daniel is apocalyptic literature set over 300 years before the date if its writing.

In the old testament I agree that the gospels were written 30 to 70 years after the resurrection in the order Mark, Matthew, Luke/Acts, John. The letters attributed to Paul were indeed written mostly by him over about 20 – 35 years, as were the other letters. But we have no writing that is before about 15 years after the resurrection. There may indeed have been other writings, such as the Q document, but none survive. You are right. The writers may have traveled in the near east and the Mediterranean. Sorry for the sloppy dating and geography.

bobpearson said...

“April 9, 2008 9:35 AM
Dan McCarthy said...
Bob,

You also seem to assume that postmodernism states that since our knowledge has changed, we cannot be certain of anything. This is not a postmodern perspective. This is a methodological perspective with absolute consequences. If you are accurate in your post modern assesment, you would state what your community believes is true and my community has the right to believe in a 6 day creation (whether they are solar days, day ages or days at the ice cream shop). The moment that you say that my perspective is false, you have lapsed into a modernist perspective.”

I am not saying that you do not believe what you believe. I also do not say that you cannot believe what you believe. I am also not saying that you are in fact false. I simply am asking that you only consider the possibility that you may be wrong. I certainly believe that I may be wrong, and have been wrong many time sin the past, but it does not deter me from living my life as if what I believe is true. But tomorrow I may have a perspective that is different than what I believed yesterday and I will live my life as if it is true also. That is my hope and my expectation. I am evolving, learning and growing in faith.

“In fact, true post modernism states that those who have power and the will to wield that power define reality.”

Really? I agree that many postmoderns perceive that history has been written by the victors if this is what you are referring to, but most postmoderns I know are not into power or control of others. In fact most are so much into non-control it is scary and somewhat of a problem for actually having impact in the world. Trying to build non-hierarchical organizations is very difficult and we are struggling with this very issue.

“Therefore, reality is who defines reality.”

No. I would say that reality is. We just are very bad at understanding or talking about whatever it truly is.

“What human society is all about is fighting for the will to power so we can define society the way we choose to define society. No one is ultimately right because power shifts will occur ultimately leading to a new definition of truth. Unfortunately, this is the ultimate metanarrative, therefore exposing postmodernism as just another absolutist system. Foucault ultimately conceded this was true. 

dan”

But isn’t this just what Jesus was talking about in his descriptions of the parables about the kingdom of God? How human ideas, power plays, human values, etc are not the values, ideas, tenets, etc of God’s kingdom? So we are to be about breaking this cycle not perpetuating it by living out Kingdom values not societal values. We must step outside the existing system and start to do things differently. I will refer you to Brian McLaren’s books “The Secret Message of Jesus” and “Everything Must Change” for more on this.

Dan McCarthy said...

Hi Bob,

Sorry, but "Why not" is not an argument. Also, your quote "This creates an US vs. THEM perspective on the world" is not an argument, but an emotional appeal. Also, by definition absolutism cannot evolve. You can learn more features over time about an absolute so it is not clear exactly what it is (attributes of God), but an absolute is an absolute.

Also, the New Testament specifically states that Jesus died for those who believe in Him, "He shed blood for many", not everyone. Also, I find it very interesting that you seem to completely misunderstand the nature of truth. How do you know it has not made a difference in my life? I think of Paul...once he became saved, he recognized how sin he was and we see that progression throughout his letters. As we conform more to the likeness of God, the truth is that we see how much less like God we are ourselves. That is the truth of the Christian faith.

Also, it does not matter how much absoluteness you can handle, as you do not define what is absolute and what is not. I also have no idea why you think I have understanding of all the absolutes? The Christian faith specifically says that we are fallen and seaparated from God. When becoming bron again, we start to move towards Christlikeness where we see moral truth from God's (absolute) perspective.

Also, we have many writings which are imbedded creeds within the NT that are within 3 to 7 years of Christs death. This is something that even high critics agree with (Romans 10:9; 1 Cor 15, ect). Also, you take it that Daniel was written in the 200's when many brilliant scholars have forcefully argued for the accurate date of Daniel's time. I wonder if you have read Archer's work or the many others that have fully rebutted (though you do not have to agree) this late dating. Also, the fact that the Essenes included Daniel in their Canon argues strongly for the early date.

Dan

Dan McCarthy said...

Sorry for the misspellings..I wrote my last post with a baby on my lap!

bobpearson said...

Dan,
We may be closer than we are willing to admit. If we are not able to fully comprehend/approach/become like God and even find ourselves knowing ourselves farther from God as we become more aware of our sinfulness, then I am unclear how you believe that you can know much about the absoluteness of God. I am wiling to admit that there may be an absoluteness/objectiveness of God, but just that we cannot know it. You seem to agree on this.

Also "Why not?" is not part of an argument just a request for clarification on a statement that is made as truth with out any background that is not clear.

Bob

Dan McCarthy said...

"to admit that there may be an absoluteness/objectiveness of God, but just that we cannot know it."

Hi Bob,

This is an absolute statement.

I beleive that we are made in the image of God. This is why we are the only creature of the billion species created, that can apprehend God's absolute attributes. The reason we recognize our sinfulness (sinfulness implies our ultimate separation from God) once we become born again is because we are no longer measuring ourselves based upon our idea of morality, but on God's absolute righteousness. We realize our deficites based upon this unbendabel rod.

Best
Dan

Ben Hanes said...

I agree with Darren that we should be wary of conveniently setting up straw men and knocking them down. Postmodernism cannot simply be written off so easily.

Though absolute statements may be made, they will always be made within a relative context or framework. The basic assumptions behind an absolute statement are always lurking in the background.

Anonymous said...

Ben said...

"Though absolute statements may be made, they will always be made within a relative context or framework. The basic assumptions behind an absolute statement are always lurking in the background."

Can you not see that this is self-refuting? What you have said is itself an absolute statement, which, if true, means that no one should pay any attention to it, because it merely reflects your own relative context or framework and your own basic assumptions. In which case, why offer such a statement, and why should anyone take it seriously when offered?

Mike Caba said...

If I may, please allow me to make a few comments concerning a regular blogger’s prior assertion as follows:

“I just wanted to quickly jump in and out of the fray to say that the law of non-contradiction actually HAS been shown to be less than full-proof (sic). The universe does appear to adhere to this law- until your (sic?) move into the quantum level. There all ideas of something being one thing, and not simultaneously another, break down.”

The author of the quote follows the above statement with further attempts to demonstrate (apparently by the use of logic) that Quantum Mechanics now demonstrates that the laws of logic (or at least some of them) are not inviolate. Whoa Doggy!

The quote above likely approaches a clear misstatement of what QM teaches in that the blogger uses the word “simultaneously” in regard to phenomena at the quantum level (perhaps referring to wave/particle duality?), when the word “alternately” would be more fitting (cf. Bohr’s concept of complementarity).

Nonetheless, the bigger issue is perhaps the penchant of many to pull from the mysterious world of QM for the purpose of supporting metaphysical assertions. Double whoa doggy! The truth of the situation is that no one actually understands QM at a deep level, and as such it is simply premature (to say the least) to build an ontological or epistemological system thereon.

Feynman says it best, to wit: “I think I can safely say the no one understands quantum mechanics,” and, despite many popular attempts (c.f. What the Bleep…?, The Secret, etal), no one has come even close to demonstrating him wrong in his claim.

Despite this we are regularly treated to a barrage of what Polkinghorn refers to as “Quantum hype”, yet in another statement from one in the know he reports that QM

“…does not, however, afford us license to indulge in embracing any pair of apparently contradictory notions that take our fancy. Like a powerful drug quantum theory is wonderful when applied correctly, disastrous when abused and misapplied.” (QT Very Short,Oxford,pg.92)

Well said. The quantum world is odd; accordingly it should be treated with extreme caution, especially when making wholesale metaphysical and epistemological claims (cf. blogger). Further still, the situation may one day be resolved by the development of a deeper understanding of the underlying unity of objective reality (by string theory perhaps?) as has been done in the past with apparent irreconcilables (cf. calculus). Or we may have reached the end of our knowing, a point at which we can apply some of that vaunted postmodernist humility. Regardless, the laws of logic are inviolate.

Rick Gerhardt said...

Ben:

I'm going to have to agree with Anonymous here. Your statement is--from a logical standpoint--self-referentially absurd. And this is characteristic of most of postmodernism's epistemological claims.

Postmodernism has valid corrections to offer to modernism, and even premodernists (like me) would do well to learn some humility and sensitivity from our friends in the postmodern camp. But when it comes to its epistemological claims, postmodernism suffers from the fatal problem of self-refutation.

As to insensitivity, postmodernists tend to confuse criticism of their ideas with criticism of themselves. This, too, is illogical. We all hold some wrong views, and some of the views we hold are demonstrably silly. It is a very good thing if we are able to help one another jettison the stupid ideas we currently hold in order to replace them with more accurate ones. This is what is known as learning, and learning (in turn) is something that we as Christians are called to continue doing.

Moreover, helping one another to a more accurate understanding (of this world and our place in it, of God and His working in this world) is one of the primary goals of my blogging in the first place. And while my further goal is to treat with respect the people with whom I get to interact, it's "open season" on any ideas they choose to share, especially the dubious ones. That, after all, is what tolerance really means--treating with respect the persons with whom we disagree (not, as many today believe, treating all ideas as equally valid).

Thanks for reading.

Ben Hanes said...

Thanks for your comments guys! I agree with Caba in regard to quantum mechanics. Simply because we cannot determine the behavior of subatomic particles has nothing to do with invalidating logic. There is a logical explanation for their behavior, we just haven't figured it out yet. Subatomic particles might violate Newtonian physics, but they do not invalidate logic all together.

As for relativism... I was simply pointing out that we are assuming absolute statements can be made. You can attack anything a relativist says by saying, "That's an absolute statement!" but the fact is you are presupposing absolutism to be true and relativism to be false. The statement, "All is relative" is false, if you are already assuming relativism to be false. Do you see?

It is bad logic to use a statement as a premise to argue the very statement. This is circular logic. Here is a good little extract from Wikipedia explaining how this is begging the question.

Wiki ~ "Contradictions such as "all beliefs are equally worthless" are nonsensical, as they constitute arguing from the premise. Once you have said if the X is absolute (e.g. "all beliefs are equally worthless") you have presupposed relativism is false. And one cannot prove a statement using that statement as a premise. There is a contradiction, but the contradiction is between relativism and the presuppositions of absoluteness in the ordinary logic used. Nothing has been proven wrong and nothing has been proven in and of itself, only the known incompatibility has been restated inefficiently."

Ben Hanes said...

Hmmm... My other comments seem to be deleted. Perhaps I didn't post it correctly.

Anyway, Caba and I chatted a little more about this and agreed that a conversation or dialog can go NOWHERE if we don't have the basic assumption that absolute statements can be made. We must have this premise if we are to gain any ground. We cannot prove absolutism nor relativism. We must assume absolutism and go from there. But we cannot 'prove' absolutism because we will always be assuming the premise of absolutism. Know what I mean Vern?...

To say "All is absolute" or "Absolutism is correct/true/reality" must assume absolutism. I am by no means defending relativism, but am pointing out that we MUST assume the premise of absolutism.